Bass players hold a vital place in most jazz groups. As the late bassist Charlie Haden put it, "When the bass stops, the bottom kind of falls out of everything." Bassists create the rhythmic underpinning that strings the chords together, and their pace-setting subtly unifies the entire ensemble. But while this role implicitly entails elements of leadership, bass players who explicitly lead their own groups used to be a less familiar sight. It was first Carlo Mombelli and the Prisoners of Strange, and then Herbie Tsoaeli with the 2013 Sama-winning album African Time who brought the bassist-leader to audience attention in SA. Now there are many more, including Lex Futshane, Thuto Motsemme, Viwe Mkizwana — and the man who has just scooped the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award for jazz (to perform at next year’s Grahamstown Festival), Benjamin Jephta. Perhaps that’s why Jephta (24) is quick to blur the distinction between player and leader. "I don’t often see the differe...

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